Charm City Power Play

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A bill to fundamentally alter the “strong mayor” government structure in Baltimore City is advancing in the City Council – at the same time that an election campaign is going on to elect a new mayor. Wow.

In a surprise move, a City Council committee unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that would effectively end the “strong mayor” form of government in Baltimore.

The committee, at the behest of Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and others, revived long-dormant legislation that would give the council president and city comptroller nearly equal power to the mayor on budget, staffing and contracting decisions. It would do that by stripping the next mayor of control of the city’s Board of Estimates, which approves all spending of more than $25,000.

The move, supporters say, would balance the influence of the branches of government. But critics say it is a rushed effort to grab more power for Young and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt before a new mayor can be elected.

“Many believe the mayor has too much power, and, on the surface, this looks good,” said Nina Therese Kasniunas, an assistant professor of political science at Goucher College. “But I don’t think it’s a good thing if it’s rushed, if it changes the rules in the middle of the game.”

Gee, ya think? 

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